178 THE WATER-LILY. THE GOLD-SPINNERS
bitterly, and would have given all he possessed to have her once more alive. In the midst of his grief he thought he heard a voice singing, and looked round, but could see no one. Then he heard the voice again, and it said:
Alas ! bewitched and all forsaken, Tis I must lie for ever here ! My beloved no thought has taken To free his bride, that was so dear.
He was greatly astonished, sprang from his horse, and looked everywhere to see if no one were hidden under the bridge; but no one was there. Then he noticed a yellow water-lily floating on the surface of the water, half hidden by its broad leaves ; but flowers do not sing, and in great surprise he waited, hoping to hear more. Then again the voice sang:
Alas ! bewitched and all forsaken, 'Tis I must lie for ever here ! My beloved no thought has taken To free his bride, that was so dear.
The Prince suddenly remembered the gold-spinners, and said to himself: ' If I ride thither, who knows but that they could explain this to me ?' He at once rode to the hut, and found the two maidens at the fountain. He told them what had befallen their sister the year before, and how he had twice heard a strange song, but yet could see no singer. They said that the yellow water-lily could be none other than their sister, who was not dead, but transformed by the magic ball. Before he went to bed, the eldest made a cake of magic herbs, which she gave him to eat. In the night he dreamt that he was living in the forest and could understand all that the birds said to each other. Next morning he told this to the maidens, and they said that the charmed cake had caused it, and advised him to listen well to the birds, and see what they could tell him, and when he had recovered his bride they begged him to return and deliver them from their wretched bondage.
Having promised this, he joyfully returned home, and as he was riding through the forest he could perfectly understand all that the birds said. He heard a thrush say to a magpie : ' How stupid men are ! they cannot understand the simplest thing. It is now quite a year since the maiden was transformed into a water-lily, and, though she sings so sadly that anyone going over the bridge must hear her, yet no one comes to her aid. Her former bridegroom